How To Clean Your Car With A Pressure Washer


In this article, you will learn:

  • How to use a pressure washer to get your car cleaner, faster

  • Two different ways to wash your car or truck with a pressure washer

  • Which products are best to use with a pressure washer and foam cannon

Cleaning your car is the most important thing you can do to maintain a like-new finish. A proper car wash is also the most essential step in preparing your car’s exterior for any kind of detailing job, from paint correction to waxing. Depending on how much you drive and the environmental conditions, experts recommend you wash your car or truck about once every two weeks. With that kind of frequency, you’ll want to make your job fast, effective and easy.

One of the best ways to accomplish all three is to upgrade from a garden hose to a car pressure washer. The high-power cleaning action of a home pressure washer will improve your car washing in a few different ways. For starters, a good pressure washer is superior for pre-rinsing your car. A strong stream of water from a high-pressure hose does a better job of breaking up tough soils like road grime, bird droppings, bugs, tree sap and caked on mud. By removing more of these with the pre-rinse, you’ll make washing your car much simpler for you and safer for your clear coat.

Pressure washers also make the final rinse faster and more effective, so you’ll have less chance of leaving any soapy residue on your car that might compromise its beauty. And finally, if you choose to pair your pressure washer with a foam cannon, the pressure will generate even more foaming action from your car wash soap. This will help you clean more thoroughly and lift abrasive soils away from your clear coat, reducing your risk of scratching the finish.

Two quick tips about tips

Every pressure washer comes with a set of tips that help shape the spray pattern, and additional tips are available separately. Two of these tips are optimal for washing your car or truck. For the wheels and wheel wells, a tip that sprays a 25-degree spray pattern works great. For the rest of the exterior, switch to a 40-degree tip. Modern pressure washers feature a quick disconnect, so switching back and forth only takes a second.

pressure washer

Under pressure

Like with every car wash, you should begin by breaking up caked on soils and rinsing away any loose debris. This sort of touch-free cleaning reduces the risk of scratches, so it’s important to remove as much dirt as possible during this step. Using your pressure washer, start with the 25-degree tip and spray the tires, wheels and wheel wells. Then, switch to the 40-degree tip and rinse the entire exterior. Work from the top down, starting at the roof, windows and windshield then the trunk and hood and on down the sides all the way to the lower panels.

rinse the entire exterior

Foam it up

If you’re using a foam cannon, fill it with a car wash soap that has been formulated specifically for this purpose and connect it to your pressure washer using the quick disconnect. We recommend M.A.X. Power Car Wash, which was recently reformulated to be foam-cannon-ready, or Cherry Snow Foam. Again, start at the top and work your way down your car. Cover the entire vehicle in a generous layer of foam. This foam not only helps break down the soil, but also helps lift and surround the dirt. Along with lubricating agents in the car wash soap, the foam keeps dirt from scratching your clear coat as you scrub and rinse the car clean.

Time to scrub

Whether you’ve used a foam cannon or not, now’s the time to scrub. Fill a bucket with a car wash soap and water solution and grab a clean microfiber car wash mitt. No dish detergent here! Using a grit guard insert will help any loose soils fall safely to the bottom of your bucket and away from your wash mitt as you rinse. Dunk your wash mitt into the solution, start at the top and work your way down. Focus on one section at a time to make sure you get all the dirt and rinse your mitt as you finish each 2’ x 2’ area.

time to scrub

Rinse, rinse, rinse

Once you’ve scrubbed the entire exterior, it’s time to rinse all that foam, soap and dirt away. Be sure to rinse the car completely clean with the 40-degree tip on your pressure washer. You don’t want to leave any soap residue or soil on the surface of your car. Pay particular attention around door and window seals. Soap and foam tend to collect in these tight spots and may require much more rinsing than other areas of your car. Once you see nothing but clear, clean water running off your car, the wash is all done.

The final step

Use a thick, high-quality, microfiber detailing towel to dry the car. Gently wipe the towel across the finish, again starting at the top and working your way down. The towel should do the work on its own. No need to apply any pressure.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that touch-free work is always preferred. Instead of a microfiber towel, use a blow dryer that was designed specifically for drying cars or grab your leaf blower and turn it on high. Your car will dry in a flash, especially if it has been waxed or coated!


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